As Google got busy extending its wearable software platform this year, Fossil, a key fashion partner for the Wear OS platform, remained relatively silent — until now.
On Monday, the watch company unveiled its latest sixth-generation touch screen smartwatch series coming from the Fossil brand and other Fossil Group partners, with global preorders starting immediately for iOS and Android users.
The company touted upgrades for the Gen 6 Touchscreen Smartwatch, including a new Spo2 sensor for tracking blood oxygen levels, faster battery charging — 30 minutes to 80 percent charge versus Gen 5’s 50 minutes — and better performance and power consumption. It also comes with speakers for making and receiving tethered calls, GPS and swim-proofing up to three atmospheres.
The Fossil-branded Gen 6 watch will offer four colorways in a 44-mm case and three in a 42-mm case, in addition to interchangeable watchband options. Users will be able to customize the dials and buttons, to keep their most used features on hand.
“We also know how crucial personalized style continues to be in the wearables space for our design-conscious consumer, so I am excited to share that in addition to Fossil brand, Michael Kors will soon be launching Gen 6 as well,” said Steve Evans, Fossil Group’s executive vice president and chief brand officer. “Our innovation teams at Fossil Group continue to provide users the best-in-class experience without compromising stunning design from brands they love.”
The company credits faster performance and battery optimization to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100+ platform. According to Fossil and Qualcomm, the Gen 6 will be the first to use the processor.
“This platform enables users to experience lightning-fast processing and richer, always-on, ambient modes and watch faces with ultralow power consumption thanks to the integration of the always-on coprocessor in the platform,” Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm Technologies’ global head of wearables, explained in a statement.
Such specs matter, if one wants functionality without sacrificing aesthetics and comfort. The optimization precludes bulky batteries, allowing devices to still stay slim.
This model offers clear upgrades to Fossil’s Gen 5, which launched in January, delivering on the promise the company has been making since at least June, when it teased a premium upcoming device to reporters. At the time, executives pledged to work with Google and Qualcomm to leverage what their technologies have to offer.
But that was big promise, and the Gen 6 doesn’t quite step up to it. For instance, there’s no mention of an LTE version, so it can work independently using cellular connectivity — a feature that many modern smartwatch users have come to value.
Meanwhile, the timing of the announcement also makes for a somewhat awkward moment: The news of Fossil’s wrist gadget — which will ship with the previous version of Google’s software, Wear OS 2, for a base price of $299 — was preceded by Samsung’s introduction of the Galaxy Watch4, a Wear OS 3 device starting at $249, by just a few weeks.
That matters because Wear OS 3 is largely regarded as a major software update designed to revive Google’s wearables business. It ties together health and fitness updates, fueled by Google’s Fitbit acquisition, as well as the recently announced Samsung partnership, which brings the latter’s Tizen software to Wear OS.
Fossil’s Gen 6 device will eventually be eligible for Wear OS 3 in 2022. But that may not come until the latter part of the year, according to a Google blog post in July, and it will require a factory reset.
Even if users are content to go through the process of resetting and updating, there’s no guarantee that everything will run smoothly, as older devices often have trouble running newer software. Google might have acknowledged as much, admitting that “the user experience may be impacted” in some instances.
But either way, it doesn’t make a strong case for shoppers looking for a premium experience.